Ursula K. Le Guin’s Blog

108. Some Books I Read in 2015

Elena Ferrante’s Naples Quartet.

Ferrante-BrilliantFriendI’ve read only the first two books. Found the first absorbing, fascinating, and a terrific study of urban class and gender structure – the social anthropology novel at its best. The second somewhat more predictable but still satisfying, especially the last half. But at the very end of it, the Worthless Prick suddenly pops up again. Oh, no! Is all the interest, all the promise of the protagonists – of the novel itself – to be thrown away on the women-adoring-a-jerk story, the love-as-addiction story? Again? I’ve gone on that nowhere trip with a novel way too often. I’m not signing on for this one. Maybe I’ll come back to the third and fourth volumes after a while. Maybe not.

Meanwhile I keep wondering why the mysteriously elusive Elena Ferrante is so mysteriously elusive. Because being mysteriously elusive is great PR, well, sure. But there’s another possibility. The psychological study of two minds, a relationship between two girls growing into women, while brilliant, is entirely in terms originated by and therefore acceptable to men (the central focus of a woman’s life is a man; women can’t and don’t trust other women). The intense competitiveness of the two girls is perfectly plausible, but as the main element of a friendship between women it ceased to convince me; mere rivalry seldom plays the part in women’s lives that it does in many men’s. And then, Lina is such a classic male-dream-woman, the eternal Carmen, magnetically sexy, fiery, holding herself apart from other women but eagerly abasing herself to the male animal…. Women of course write about such women, and often, but seldom at this level of sophistication.

Anyhow, for what it‘s worth, I’m laying no bets on the gender of the coy author.